Knowledge, Love, and Idols - Page 4 (Lessons on First Corinthians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

He knows those who seek shelter in him” (Nahum 1:7; GW).loved us, we ought also to love one another”… “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”… “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:11, 12, 20; KJV). Also see 1 Corinthians 13.
The principle here is “We ought to be ruled by love rather than knowledge.”

the same is known of him.
• “…The Lord knoweth them that are his…” (2 Tim 2:19; KJV).
The true knowledge of God does not come about through the acquisition of information concerning Him. It comes through loving Him. To love is to know and to be known. This is the precise sentiment of 1 John 4.7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God… He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Love is essential to knowledge. Whoever loves God, knows God; he is taught by Him, made to know more by Him; such a person increases in spiritual knowledge, and is beloved by God: God takes a special notice of him, manifests his love for him, and He will acknowledge him on Judgment Day, when proud, haughty, overbearing, and hard hearted professors, will be rejected by him: “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:23; KJV). As Morris said, "The really important thing is not that we know God, but that he knows us!"

Love and knowledge must go together. It has been said, “Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.” Knowledge is power and it must be used in love. But love must always be controlled by knowledge: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment…That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ…Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:9-11; KJV). The strong believers in the Corinthian church had knowledge, but they were not using their knowledge in love. Instead of building up the weak saints, the strong Christians were only puffing up themselves. The love of God in ones heart never begets pride of knowledge. The more completely we are controlled by the Spirit of God, and permeated by the love of God, the more humble we are. The love of God within us enables us to walk humbly before him. Love is the essence of Christianity; knowledge is secondary. One who possesses true knowledge of God and His word loves God and his word even more.

4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols,

Paul had got off the subject he introduced in the first verse of the chapter, and in verses 2 and 3 he commented on intellectual Knowledge, and now he returns to the subject being debated by the Corinthians. The question was, whether it was right for Christians to eat the meat of animals that had been slain in sacrifice to idols. Here the question is expanded somewhat from what it was in 1 Corinthians 8:1, but it is substantially the same inquiry.

In the heathen festivals and sacrifices, portions were given to the priest who made the sacrifice to the idol. True believers recognized the fact that all of this was nothing but emptiness and vanity; but even though the believers in Corinth knew this, that did not settle the questions that were in their minds—questions that brought about divisions among believers.

The Jews had rules to govern those things offered to idols, which may be expressed as follows:
1. No one is to profit in any way from anything offered to an idol.
2. It is forbidden to profit from animal sacrifices; even its dung, and its bones, and its horns, and its hoofs, and its skin, are forbid to be of any profit.
3. Flesh, wine, and fruits, which are brought into the temple to be offered up to idols, are not forbidden for profit; that is, they can be sold or taken for personal consumption. But once they are offered to an idol they become an offering, and they cannot profit anyone.
4. All that is found in an idol's temple, even water and salt, are forbidden for profit by the law, "and he that eats anything thereof is to be beaten.''
5. An Israelite that lifts up a cheese, and does not worship it, but a Gentile does worships it; it is forbidden for profit, because the lifting up of the cheese is an action; and if he lifts up an egg, and a Gentile comes and worships it, it is forbidden; he that cuts a gourd, or any such thing, and worships it, it is forbidden.

Before it could be determined whether it was proper to eat from these sacrifices, two issues had to be settled; first, what an idol is must be resolved; and secondly, what effect the eating would have. As for idols, Paul says there is no idol (or that an idol is nothing in the world,); and as for the eating, he says it could have no effect on our religious condition—it could make us neither better nor worse: “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse” (1 Cor 8:8; KJV). After you have come to Christ, after you know the Word of God, you know that an idol is nothing. That is the way Paul spoke of idols—they are nothing. There is only one God. So he says that the meat that was offered to the idol was not affected. Nothing happened to it. It was not contaminated. In fact, it was prime meat. So the enlightened Christian could go to the temple to buy his meat and eat it with no reservations, because Christians are not bound by the Old Testament Laws regarding eating meat offered to idols. Nevertheless, if our eating causes other people to sin, we should not eat.

Of course, the world was full of idols; but, as Wesley said: Idol here does not mean a mere image; but, by an inevitable transition of thought, the deity worshiped in the image. By this, Paul says that Zeus, Apollo, etc., have no existence; they are not to be found in the world.

we know that an idol is nothing in the world,
“We know,” that is, we Corinthians know; and Paul seems to admit that they had all the knowledge which they claimed—“Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled” (1 Cor 8:7; KJV). (Also see 1 Corinthians 8:1.)—but his object was to show that even admitting that, it would not follow that it would be right to partake of that meat. It is well to bear in mind that the object of their statement in regard to knowledge was to show that there could be no impropriety in partaking of the food. The apostle answers this argument in 1 Corinthians 8:7.
The first thing Paul establishes is that “an idol is nothing.” Any thinking person knows that since there is “none other God but one,” if a person offers a sacrifice to an idol, he is, in fact, sacrificing to a nonentity. While we know that in the pagan world there are those “that are called gods,” “we know that an idol is nothing in the world.” Although an idol is made from a material created by God (gold, silver, brass, wood, iron, etc.), which is something, nevertheless it has the form of a man or an animal or some imagined thing that is supposed to represent God, it is nothing, because there can be no representation of the invisible God; it is nothing, that is, it has no divinity in it, it is no God. Though it may have an existence, like the sun, moon, and stars, yet it is not divine; and in that sense it is nothing. The apostle is speaking the language of the Jewish doctors, who say, “Why dost thou envy an idol, since it is nothing, or there is nothing to it.” And the Rabbis say, since "there is nothing in an idol, why do they call them deities.'' It is very likely the apostle may have reference to “Mylyla,” the Hebrew word for idols, which signifies things of nought (nothing), that are good for nothing, are of no value, and are as nothing—“In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats” (Isaiah 2:20; KJV). An Idol Is not the true God; it is not a proper object of worship. We are not so stupid that we would suppose that the block of wood, or the carved image, or the chiseled marble has real intelligence, and is attentive and capable of receiving worship, or benefiting its followers. We fully admit, and know, that the whole thing is make-believe; and there can be no danger that, by partaking of the food offered in sacrifice to them, we should ever be brought to a belief of the stupendous falsehood that they are true objects of worship, or to deny the true God. There is no doubt that the more intelligent heathen had this knowledge; and doubtless nearly all Christians possessed it, though a few who had been educated in the grosser views of heathenism might still have regarded the idol with a superstitious reverence. Since whatever might have been the knowledge of statesmen and philosophers on the subject, it was still almost certainly true that the great mass of the heathen world did regard the dumb idols as the proper objects of worship, and supposed that they were inhabited by invisible spirits--the gods. For purposes of government, and policy, the lawgivers and priests of the pagan world were careful to cherish this delusion. See 1 Corinthians 8:7.

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